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Faculty and students rally outside University Center

February 17, 2011

Responding to Gov. Scott Walker’s budget repair bill, UW-River Falls students, staff, and city locals walked away from their daily responsibilities to protest at the University Center Thursday.

Wednesday night members of the UWRF campus community received an e-mail encouraging them to “walkout” at noon the next day.

The protest was set forth by a group called Falcons for a Fair Education. One of the leaders of that group is College Democrats President Matt Stauner.

Stauner said he has been collaborating with the union American Federation of Teachers-Wisconsin.

UWRF faculty members have been working for several months on gaining collective bargaining rights under AFT-Wisconsin.

Students and faculty took turns speaking before a crowd of 500, according to an estimate by College Democrat and Student Senate Officer Tyler Halverson.

“It’s more about respect, and this bill is a huge slap in the face to the public employees,” said Halverson. “I think that the number of protesters that we have been seeing is a response to that.”

Xander Toftness, a freshman, said, he did not know much about the bill. After he read about the bill, however, he felt it was important to join the walkout.

Some of the students that spoke included Nikki Shonoiki, Halverson and Stauner. The faculty members who spoke included Michelle Parkinson, Kurt Leichtle and Timothy Lyden.

Before Parkinson went before the crowed, she said, “I am doing this because I love this place. I love the students here. I love my work, and I care about higher education.”

At the Feb. 15 Student Senate meeting, UWRF Chancellor Dean Van Galen spoke and answered questions about the bill.

“One of my main concerns is faculty retention,” said Van Galen.

Faculty are going to leave and it is going to be hard to attract any kind of worker with the cuts that are proposed in the bill, said Parkinson.

At the walkout, Kelly Jacobs, a senior, said that she was concerned about what this bill might mean for not only the faculty but also the people that they have to financially support at home.

Faculty member Lawrence Bennett said he walked out with the protesters because the issue at hand is an issue of rights.

“Protest of rights is something that we have been doing for hundreds of years,” said Bennett, “It is important that we stand together.”

The walkout was not met with favor from everyone.

Steve Nystrom, a junior and commuter, said it is an inconvenience because he didn’t know about the walkout until he arrived to the UWRF campus.

An e-mail sent to faculty and staff Thursday by UWRF Provost Fernando Delgado included an e-mail from a student who did not approve of the walkout by faculty and students. The student, who is also a commuter ,said that he expects an education and said he would be very upset if he drove to campus to find that his professors canceled class to protest.

Delgado provided a statement that acknowledged that the current situation surrounding the budget repair bill is difficult and disheartening. He also stated that faculty members need to ensure that they are meeting their obligations as educators in order to assure that learning can continue.

Comments

Matt on 24 Feb 2011: Really Ramona, you want to argue that you’re informed? Fine, I'll break it down for you... and I won’t even gloat when you realize you had erroneous information. Mr. Obama promised a new era of transparent federal government, yet on Saturday morning Mr. Reid threw out the 2,100-page bill which no senator had the chance to digest it in the 38 hours before the first cloture vote. After procedural motions that allow for NO amendments, the final vote came at 1am on the 21 of December! Yes Ramona, the backers of this bill did stand firm, as the American people didn’t want it… they where the only ones who did. Look at the public polling data. If you’re talking about the public option, it was fellow democrats whom didn’t support its inclusion which lead to its later removal. Don’t think for a minute that they would have given any compromises otherwise. The rushed, secretive way that a bill this destructive and disliked was forced on the country shows that "reform" and “change you can believe in” has devolved into the raw exercise of political power for the single purpose of permanently expanding the American entitlement state. The only goal was to ram it into law while the political window was still open. It’s time to take some of your own medicine… the only difference is this bill (Walkers) will actually make more people feel better… pardon the pun.

Ramona on 22 Feb 2011: I am not a professor. The university employees people with a range of job titles. I've been reading the reports. I'm not uninformed. The healthcare bill was not introduced one day and intended to be voted on 3 to 4 days later. The backers of that bill did not stand firm -- claiming all or nothing.

Matt on 20 Feb 2011: If what you say is true then one can only assume you were against Obama's health care bill that was posted hours before the vote? If you want to talk about working behind closed doors he is the guy to take issue with. Did you protest that as well? I would also like to clarify that I never said "faculty" salaries start at 60K, I said educators, thus implying professors. Please refrain from twisting my words to suit your argument. Based on your comments I would assume you’re a professor, which puts me in the awkward position of asking you research the facts further before making judgments. You made a post in a different article in which your comments (where you claim Walker created the deficit) clearly show you haven’t researched the deficit and the reasons which require these cuts. I must kindly ask you better inform yourself if you would like to continue this conversation.

Ramona on 20 Feb 2011: One more point: The committment that faculty members have to their discipline, the work that they do (that students do not see) -- outside of preparing for their classes, delivering their courses, grading, advising, ... Their work in service to their discipline gives your college credentials value. It is this work (often without pay) that makes your credentials valuable and gives employers a reason to hire you.

Ramona on 19 Feb 2011: Faculty salaries do not start at 60K. Faculty work more than 9 months a year -- they do their work whether they are on the clock or not. Having said this, not everyone affected by this bill is a faculty member. Some make sure your student loans are in order. Some clean the rooms you study in and the floors you walk over. Some keep the buildings maintained. Some answer phones and handle paperwork, and give you guidance, support, and encouragement. Some of us get paid by the credit -- and our inexpensvie labor (it is) keeps your (Matt's) tuition down. We prepare for our classes, write our exams and quizzes, and grade them. We meet students outside of office hours when they ask, and we answer their emails. We're not looking at the clock so that we stop working when the number of hours we get paid for are up. I work overtime but I do not get paid for it. I know that many others do the same. Some of us are not protesting the cuts to benefits that will threaten some homes financially (it will threaten mine). We are protesting a legislative process that is unheard of in this country-- wiping out important legislation that has made this state a model for other states, doing it behind closed doors, refusing to speak to constituents, and trying to push it through in a matter of days. I'm protesting the mistruths, the bully tactics, and the destruction of our rights to collectively bargain. (And I do not have union representation.) I'm protesting because these methods and these goals strike fear in me. I'm protesting because this is not good for anyone. I'm protesting for the future of my son. I'm protesting for Matt.

Matt on 17 Feb 2011: Many professors canceled there classes to promote there unwillingness to work like the rest of us in the private sector. REALLY!!! What other profession can you cancel a business deal or shift (I paid a lot of money for my education) last minute and still get compensated. Not to mention no repercussions for them not showing. If I skipped my work to "protest" I'd have a "No Show" and be fired. It's time for educators to realize that working 9 months a year and still pulling in 60K+ is a GREAT deal. BOO HOO you have to pay for your health care and retirement. BIG DEAL, so to the rest of us! Taking a pay cut ....join the rest of us, were in a recession It's time to grow up, stop wining and support the better good of the state. It's either this or mass lay offs, you take your pick. We should start the lay offs with those that canceled classes on students that paid good money to be there. GO WALKER!!!